These days when I play paper Magic it tends to be Commander.
It’s not that I don’t love draft or Pauper or whatever else you throw my way. It’s just that, given the realities of my existence – work, family, all of this I mean seriously if you’re not worried you’re not paying attention vote vote vote – I want to spend my downtime doing absurd stuff and generally having a good time. And when I play Commander it tends to be with friends, which makes the games all the more enjoyable.
Commander also lets me flex my deckbuilding muscles a bit in a way that the more competitive formats do not allow. While I always want to win, I also want to do it in a way I enjoy. After playing Commander for years, I have come to understand a few animating elements to my gameplay.
- I like Aristocrats style decks where I can sacrifice permanents for value
- I like using the graveyard as a resource
- I lean heavily on enchantments as they are an under-targeted card type
- Having played Magic since 1994, I get a real kick out of using old cards
- I also love using underplayed cards and leveraging them to my advantage
With Theros Beyond Death coming out soon I wanted to take a look at one of my decks that stands to improve from the set – Hakim, Loreweaver.
When I was putting together this deck, it wasn’t about Hakim. It was supposed to be Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor Flying Tribal. I had tons of cards lined up – Spirited Away, Favorable Winds, Stratus Walk, Magewight Stone, Illusionist’s Bracers, Gravity Well – when I noticed how many cards I had pulled were Auras, including Flight of Fancy. I remembered Hakim and decided to pull him for the build. And then I read this ruling:
“You only check if he has no Auras when activating the ability. You can use the ability multiple times in response to each other to get multiple Auras on him this way.”
All my plans changed. Here was an old Commander – clearly underpowered – that let me use the graveyard as a resource and use enchantments. And do you know what blue auras tend to do? They make your creatures harder to kill. So I was building a Voltron Commander. Blue auras also draw you a ton of cards. Flight of Fancy is the hallmark here, but Ordeal of Thassa also fits the bill (and lets you draw the cards each time you recur it).
I want to take a moment to talk about the inclusion of Eldrazi Conscription and Corrupted Conscience. These are two cards that end games in short order and toe the line of what is fun. To that end they are balanced by the fact that I am playing what is clearly an underpowered Commander in a format where trying to untap on turn six is a big ask. Just let me poison you with an eldritch wizard who rides a dragon apparently?
From there I went about finding as many cards that could manipulate auras. Crown of Ages and Skull of Orm do the job, and Arcanum Wings is just an odd one. Rootwater Matriarch is another old card that gives my auras other utility – I’m still trying to pick up a copy of Willbreaker to go with Shimmering Wings because why not? Illusory Gains was a fun find that I can get back with Hakim and then go ham on my opponent’s things. Because what’s wrong with a little chaos?
Vanishing. Oh boy when I remembered this card I realized it was perfect. You know that feeling when you’re about to knock out everyone but that one player casts Teferi’s Protection and you know all your plans are for naught? You get to do that with your Commander over and over and keep all the auras around. Thanks weird rules interactions!
There’s so many other things I like about this deck. Puting Control Magic effects on Hakim and then moving them around; killing people with Tricks of the Trade; running Forbid.
And that’s why, despite my love of all things Golgari, I think Hakim, Loreweaver is my favorite Commander deck. It certainly isn’t the best and it doesn’t always put up a good fight. What it does do, better than just about any other deck, is allow me to go exploring. So many other Commanders and strategies are well researched these days. Putting a card like Hakim in charge lets me revel in the joy of discovery over and over again.
Also it’s just fun to smash face with a wizard wearing five pairs of pants.